Guidance

Eritrea: migrant health guide

Advice and guidance on the health needs of migrant patients from Eritrea for healthcare practitioners.

Main messages

If the patient is new to the UK:

  • explain to them how the NHS works
  • discuss how this compares to the healthcare system they’ve been used to

Ensure that all patients are up-to-date with the UK immunisation schedule.

Screen all new entrants, including children, for tuberculosis (TB).

Consider screening for hepatitis B, particularly among those who have recently arrived, because Eritrea has an intermediate prevalence.

Consider screening for hepatitis C, because Eritrea has a considerably higher prevalence of hepatitis C than the UK.

Ask opportunistically about any travel plans the patient may have to visit friends and relatives in their country of origin, and see National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC), or the Health Protection Scotland websites (TRAVAX and fitfortravel), for travel advice.

There is a high risk of malaria in some areas of Eritrea.

There is a risk of typhoid infection in Eritrea.

Female genital mutilation (FGM) has been estimated to affect more than 80% of women and girls in Eritrea.

Find out more about children’s health.

Infectious diseases

Immunisation

Ensure that all patients, especially children, are up-to-date with the UK immunisation schedule. See the immunisation collection with current schedules.

Tuberculosis (TB)

There is a high incidence of TB in Eritrea (40 to 499 cases per 100,000), so:

  • screen all new entrants (including children) for TB according to NICE guidelines
  • refer to TB services promptly if screening is positive
  • maintain long term vigilance for symptoms of TB even if initial screening is negative
  • be aware that TB is a notifiable disease

Sexually transmitted infections and HIV

Take a sexual history, and:

  • screen for STIs and HIV according to risk as specified in the UK national standards and guidelines
  • test all sexually active patients under the age of 25 for chlamydia

Eritrea has a low rate of HIV (≤1%), so:

  • offer and recommend an HIV test if the patient:
    • falls into a high risk group
    • is newly registering in a high prevalence area
  • be advised that national guidelines do not recommend routine consideration of HIV testing of infants and children who have recently arrived in the UK

Hepatitis B

Eritrea has an intermediate prevalence of hepatitis B, so:

  • consider screening for hepatitis B, particularly those who have recently arrived
  • offer screening for hepatitis B to all pregnant women during each pregnancy
  • immunise appropriately babies born to mothers who are hepatitis B positive and follow-up accordingly
  • be aware that the UK has a selective immunisation programme for hepatitis B

Hepatitis C

Eritrea has a considerably higher prevalence of hepatitis C than the UK, so consider screening for hepatitis C.

Travel plans and advice

Ask opportunistically about any travel plans the patient may have to visit friends and relatives in their country of origin, and see National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC), or the Health Protection Scotland websites (TRAVAX and fitfortravel), for travel advice.

Malaria

There is a high risk of malaria in some areas of Eritrea, due to P. falciparum and P. vivax, so:

Typhoid

There is a risk of typhoid infection in Eritrea, so:

  • ensure that travellers to Eritrea are offered typhoid immunisation and advice on prevention of enteric fever
  • remember enteric fever in the differential diagnosis of illness in patients with a recent history of travel to-or-from Eritrea

Helminths

There is a risk of helminth infections in Eritrea, including:

  • schistosomiasis
  • lymphatic filariasis

Women’s health

Reproductive health indicators

Reproductive health indicator UK Eritrea
Children per woman¹ 2 5
Use of contraception² 82% 8%

¹lifetime average ²by woman of reproductive age or partner

No data are available on:

  • mammography screening rates
  • cervical cancer screening rates

Female genital mutilation

Female genital mutilation (FGM) has been estimated to affect more than 80% of women and girls in Eritrea, so be advised that:

  • children born in the UK may be at risk of FGM during visits to friends and relatives in Eritrea
  • it is illegal to take girls who are British nationals or permanent residents of the UK abroad for FGM, whether or not it is lawful in Eritrea

If you are concerned that a British citizen may be taken overseas for the purpose of FGM, please call the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on 020 7008 1500 or email fgm@fco.gov.uk.


Find out more about women’s health.

Nutritional and metabolic concerns

Anaemia

There is a moderate risk of anaemia in adults (estimated prevalence in non-pregnant women is 20 to 40%), and a high risk in pre-school children (estimated prevalence is >40%), in Eritrea, so:

  • consider the possibility of anaemia in recently arrived migrants, particularly women and pre-school children
  • test as clinically indicated

Vitamin D

Consider the possibility of vitamin D deficiency in people who may be at risk due to:

  • covering their body for cultural or religious reasons (lack of sunlight)
  • skin colour
  • diet (vegan or vegetarian)

Vitamin A

There is a high risk of vitamin A deficiency in Eritrea.

Country profile

Health indicators and health care

WHO Global Health Observatory has a summary of health indicators and health care in Eritrea.

Culture, politics and history

BBC News and The World Factbook provide background information on the culture, politics and history of Eritrea.

Languages

The main languages used in Eritrea are:

  • Tigrinya (official)
  • Arabic (official)
  • English (official)
  • Tigre
  • Kunama
  • Afar
  • other Cushitic languages

Source: The World Factbook.


Find out about language interpretation.

Religions

The main religions in Eritrea are:

  • Muslim
  • Coptic Christian
  • Roman Catholic
  • Protestant

Source: The World Factbook.

Migration to the UK

There were over 17,000 people from Eritrea living in England and Wales at the time of the 2011 Census.

Source: Office for National Statistics © Crown Copyright 2014.

Published 31 July 2014
Last updated 7 April 2016 + show all updates
  1. Updated advice on testing for malaria and anaemia, based on current prevalence in Eritrea.
  2. First published.